Here’s Why Plum Oil Belongs in Your Skincare Routine

Dermatologists dig deep into this trending ingredient’s benefits.

by Emily Shiffer Health Writer

Trendy skincare ingredients come and go (and sometimes come and go again). But one ingredient that has had a skincare boom lately just might have some staying power. “Plum oil is highly moisturizing (but also non-greasy)," says Courtney Hixon, a cosmetic chemist and consumer behavior scientist in Houston, TX.

It’s that perfect balance of hydration without the over-shine that may explain how in 2019 alone, sales of plum kernel oil reached over $167 million. And they’re estimated to grow to over $231 million by 2024, according to a report from market research company Fior Markets.

But what exactly is it, and how does it work? We asked dermatologists for the scoop on plum oil, how to use it on chronic skin, and some of the best products you should invest in.

What Is Plum Oil?

It’s pretty much what it sounds like; plum oil—which originated in China thousands of years ago—is extracted from the seed of the plum fruit. And it’s all the rage because of its anti-inflammatory and hydrating benefits.

“Plum oil (Prunus domestica) is also known as plum kernel oil,” says Lauren Taglia, M.D., a dermatologist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Illinois. “The plum kernel oil is composed of triglycerides, as well as vitamins E, C and A”—which all work together to plump and hydrate skin that is dry and irritated.

Its light texture, quick absorption, and delicate (slightly sweet) fruity, almond (marzipan-like!) aroma make it an ideal addition to specialty cosmetic and beauty products, says Hixon.

What Are the Benefits of Plum Oil?

Plum oil is full of nutrients that when applied topically can really enhance your skin. Here is the breakdown:

  • Vitamin A: “This promotes healing and cell turnover,” which can help improve wrinkles and skin elasticity, says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., an associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

  • Vitamin C: Helps repair cells and reduce hyperpigmentation. The kakadu plum, the most commonly used plum variety in skincare, is particularly rich in vitamin C.

  • Vitamin E: Helps heal and repair damaged skin.

  • Omega fatty acids 6 and 9: Hydrates skin.

  • Oleic acid: “Helps to regulate sebum production, and it's also noncomedogenic, so it's safe and potentially helpful for oily skin,” says Hadley King, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist practicing in New York City.

  • Linoleic acid: Encourages skin cell turnover and works to prevent clogged pores.

  • Polyphenols: Provides anti-inflammatory benefits and helps protect the skin from sun and pollution damage.

  • Antioxidants: Helps with the production of elastin and collagen. “Plum oil can help protect and calm the skin. The antioxidants help neutralize free radical damage to protect the skin from UV light and encourage healthy collagen production,” says Dr. Zeichner.

How Do You Use It?

Since plum oil is found in many serums and topicals, it can easily be added into your skincare routine. “It serves as an emollient (a substance that soothes and moisturizes) and can be applied to cleansed skin by gently pressing the oil into the skin,” says Dr. Taglia. It should be applied underneath makeup if you plan to wear it during the day. (Note: it should not be ingested because skincare plum oil often comes with other inedible ingredients.)

“Plum oil may also be used for damaged hair on the ends to protect against heat damage (by providing a protective heat resistant coating),” says Dr. Taglia. Or, you can apply it directly to your roots as a moisturizing leave-in treatment that also helps keep your scalp clarified, thanks to its linoleic acid.

“It can be used one to two times per day and layered along with your other products,” says Dr. Zeichner. “And it can be used across all skin types, even those who are dry or sensitive.” However, it has not been officially studied on chronic skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. So if you are interested in trying it, consult your dermatologist first.

Another thing to consider: Those with severe nut allergies or sensitivities may want to check with their doc before using, as plums are in the same plant family as almonds.

Plum Oil Products You’ll Love

If you’re looking to try some products with plum oil, here are five dermatologist-approved recommendations.

Dermadoctor Kakadu C Serum ($95, dermadoctor.com)

“Besides plum extract, this serum delivers high concentrations of vitamin C to help protect and hydrate the skin and even skin tone,” says Dr. Zeichner. To use it, apply five drops to clean, dry skin.

Vitruvi Plum Oil ($40, vitruvi.com)

“This is 100% pure and cold pressed, vegan and cruelty free,” says Dr. King. “It’s also free from synthetic fragrance, phthalates, mineral oil, and parabens.”

Eden Botanicals Plum Kernel Oil ($31, edenbotanicals.com)

This pick is USDA certified organic, meaning it meets the agency’s guidelines for soil quality, pest and weed control, and use of additives. To put it plainly: you’re getting a super high-quality, pure product, says Dr. King.

Le Prunier Plum Oil ($72, leprunier.com/products/plum-beauty-oil)

“This 100% pure oil contains pure plum oil to soothe the skin, hydrate, and brighten skin tone,” says Dr. Zeichner. It can be used alone or mixed in using a drop with your favorite face cream or body lotion.

Pai Polly Plum Calendula & Jojoba Comforting Body Cream ($39, shop.beauty-heroes.com)

“This is very moisturizing with shea butter, olive oil, squalene, glycerin, sunflower seed oil and a number of other botanical oils” added in, says Dr. King.

Emily Shiffer
Meet Our Writer
Emily Shiffer

Emily Shiffer is a former digital web producer for Men’s Health and Prevention, and is currently a freelancer writer specializing in health, wellness, weight loss, and fitness. She is currently based in Pennsylvania and loves all things antiques, cilantro, and American history.